Posted by Nick Alcock, Criminal Defense Attorney
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, here’s a police officer apparently taking a small bag of drugs out of his back pocket and planting it in the vehicle he pulled over. The source of the video? His own dash mounted camera.
O.K., so you have to be pretty stupid to do something like this, and most police officers who are in the business of fabricating evidence probably won’t do it right in front of their own camera, but this is exactly why dash cameras are needed in every police vehicle.
In DUI cases, police officers are called to the witness stand and they talk about the performance of the defendant completing field sobriety tests. The police talk about seeing sway, inability to walk a straight line, and slurred speech. Why not just play the videotape? Wouldn’t it make it harder for DUI attorneys to defend cases? Wouldn’t it be easier for prosecutors to win every time?
In resisting arrest cases, the police answer questions about the defendant’s level of aggression, the pitch of their voice and their actions. Isn’t video a great asset for prosecutors? Not in Arizona.
People arrested for DUI are typically photographed at the station or DUI van. The cameras the police use are just like every other digital camera you can buy today. They have a little wheel on the top that allows the officer to choose photographs or video. They already have the cameras. It would cost them nothing to turn the wheel to video and record the DUI interview. But they don’t.
They don’t, I believe, because it is easier to write in the report that the officer saw a 2 inch sway, bloodshot and watery eyes and a messy appearance. It is easier to write that they heard a confused and slurred speech from the defendant. It is easier to come up with boilerplate language and insert it into every police report than to actually document everything as it actually occurred.
Because some people who are pulled over for DUI don’t slur their speech. They don’t have bloodshot eyes. They don’t sway. When they are taken down to the police station and submit to a blood test, their blood alcohol concentration may actually be greater than .08, but they don’t exhibit any signs and symptoms of impairment. After all, .08 is pretty low. It just takes a few drinks and not everybody looks impaired after a few drinks.
So instead of recording this information which just might complicate the odds of getting a conviction, the police write down similar language over and over. Any criminal defense attorney or DUI lawyer will say the same thing. They see the same words used in case after case.
So in this instance, a police officer was caught planting evidence–an extraordinary event. But there are also ordinary events that are JUST AS HORRIBLE. Pencil whipping a police report–injecting half truths or shading facts–is just as bad. This video just documents that the police sometimes will do anything to get a conviction. They sometimes do little things to get a conviction.
Check out the video at about 1 minute. Posted by Nick Alcock, criminal defense attorney. Phoenix, Arizona.
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